Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Screening: "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" at the Pasadena Arclight

Just in time for Halloween, the lurid classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was screened at the Pasadena Arclight Sunday night.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Seven Arts/Warner Bros., 1962)
Starring Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Victor Buono
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Screenplay by Lukas Heller (based on the novel by Henry Farrell)
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Black & White).  
Also nominated for Best Actress (Davis), Best Supporting Actor (Buono), Best Cinematography (Black & White) and Best Sound.

Back in the days of vaudeville, Baby Jane Hudson is a big star.  She wields her childish star power as if it will never end, while her less glamorous sister Blanche seethes with resentment in the background.  Their father indulges the obnoxious Jane, while their mother desperately tries to assure Blanche that one day she will be the successful one.

Fast-forward twenty years and Blanche Hudson is a great actress and movie star.  Her contract perversely requires her Hollywood studio to make a film starring her much less talented sister Jane for every movie Blanche makes for them.  It's a testament to Blanche's talent and success that her studio complies (albeit reluctantly) with this odd request, despite the fact that they lose money on Jane's movies.

Another twenty years later, the aging sisters are sequestered in a gothic Hollywood mansion.  Blanche has been crippled by a car accident that wasn't an accident as much as it was the result of Jane's jealousy of her sister's Hollywood success.  Jane's curse for her sin is to care hand and foot for the sister she decimated, and the result is disappointment, cruelty and drunkeness.

TV is bringing Blanche Hudson's old films to an enthusiastic and appreciative new audience.  One of those enthralled by her long-lost work is the Hudson's teenaged neighbor, played by no other than Bette Davis' real-life daughter B.D. Merrill.  Numerous attempts by the girl's mother to engage their legendary neighbors are rebuffed by the bitter Jane.

As if Blanche's renewed fame isn't bad enough, she has been planning to sell their home and institutionalize Jane.  Unfortunately for Blanche all her secret precautions have been for naught - Jane is on to her plans.  Jane begins to torment Blanche and separate her from her few contacts with the outside world, especially their maid Elvira, who is supposed to become Blanche's new caregiver when Jane is out of the picture.

In the midst of all this mayhem the former vaudeville star decides to stage a comeback.  Jane engages a desperately unemployed pianist (Buono) for her return to the stage thinking that they are becoming great friends, not realizing he is just humoring her delusions for a paycheck.  Jane's treatment of Blanche becomes increasingly abusive and when Elvira discovers just how badly, Jane, who is dropping further and further into madness, murders her in a desperate attempt to keep her abuse of Blanche a secret and her comeback on track.

It's all downhill from there as her pianist discovers Jane's mistreatment of Blanche, Elvira's body is found and Jane finally succumbs to her mad delusions.  She drags a dying Blanche to the beach for a beautiful day out.  It's there that Blanche makes a startling deathbed confession: that Jane, who drunkenly blacked out the car "accident" didn't in fact cripple her sister.  It was actually Blanche who tried to ram the car into Jane, rather than Jane, resentful of Blanche's success.  All those years, the saintly Blanche had allowed Jane to believe that she was the guilty party and was therefore obligated to care for the sister she thought she had crippled.  This sends Jane completely over the edge.  The film ends with Blanche expiring on the beach, while Jane relives her glory days, dancing along the ocean's edge while a curious crowd gawks at her.

Baby Jane facts/trivia:
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was the first time Hollywood legends Davis and Crawford appeared in the same film.  They were lifelong Hollywood enemies.  Davis was the gifted, critically-acclaimed actress who recognized that she didn't have Crawford's glamor, while Crawford was the glamorous MGM star who envied Davis' talent.
  • The nosy neighbor's daughter - one of Blanche Hudson's newfound fans thanks to television broadcasts of her old films - was played by Bette Davis' real-life daughter B.D. (short for Barbara Davis).  She was born B.D. Sherry, then became B.D. Merrill (the name she's credited with in Baby Jane) after Davis married her All About Eve costar Gary Merrill, who adopted the girl.  But it was under her married name, B.D. Hyman, that she became most the author of My Mother's Keeper, the Bette Davis version of Mommy Dearest.  B.D.'s husband, Jeremy Hyman, was a Seven Arts executive; he and B.D. met during promotion of Baby Jane.
  • The decaying Hollywood mansion occupied by the dysfunctional sisters is located at 172 S. McCadden Place in the upscale Los Angeles neighborhood of Hancock Park.  It still stands.
  • There are several scenes were Jane does an eerily accurate imitation of Blanche's voice.  In reality, Davis couldn't mimic Crawford, so Joan's voice was dubbed.
  • Both Davis and Crawford received BAFTA nominations for Best Foreign Actress.  Davis and Buono also received Golden Globe nominations.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? on imdb  - Bette Davis on imdb - Joan Crawford on imdb - Victor Buono on imdb - Robert Aldrich on imdb - Lukas Heller on imdb - What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? on Wikipedia - 172 S. McCadden (Hudson Sisters house) on Trulia - Baby Jane film locations

Happy (and safe!) Halloween everyone

From Disneyland's The Haunted Mansion:

Fun factoids: The lead singer (with the fantastic face) of Grim Grinning Ghosts was Thurl Ravenscroft, who was also the voice of Tony the Tiger (for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes), sang You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and boomed No Dogs Allowed in Snoopy, Come Home.

The Dapper Dans do Grim Grinning Ghosts:

And as a bonus, also from The Haunted Mansion, it's Madame Leota:

Enjoy your candy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This doesn't seem very sporting, does it?

A Weight Watchers right next to a Baja Fresh?  Ouch.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bunches o'Boingo

Before he was Danny Elfman, super-composer, he was Danny Elfman, super-frontman for Oingo Boingo, one of the best bands ever.  I had the great fortune to see the band live on a number of occasions and they never disappointed.  Over the past few days I've been on a Boingo kick thanks to YouTube.

Unfortunately, chances of a Boingo reunion are pretty much non-existent.  Word is Danny suffered some hearing loss from their live performances and doesn't want to take the chance of losing any more.  Can't say I blame him, as much as I'd give anything to see this band live again.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

TNT greenlights "L.A. Noir". And there was much rejoicing.

Months after the pilot was announced, TNT has finally ordered Frank Darabont's L.A. Noir to series.  I've been waiting a long time for this announcement. 

As the Deadline article linked above mentioned, the series is based on John Buntin's book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation's Most Seductive City.

I didn't see a premiere date in the article, but I hope they get this up and running soon.  This should be a good one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I learned from the second Presidential debate

It wasn't the bloodbath that debate #1 (which I missed, but heard plenty about) was, but nothing about this debate swayed me from my opinion of either candidate.  Barack Obama is still an ineffective, thin-skinned Campaigner-in-Chief, while Mitt Romney - while far from my first choice as Republican nominee - has gotten results in the past as a governor and a businessman.  My Dad was a successful businessman (and did it without compromising any ethics) so this carries a lot of weight with me.  I think it's sad we've come to a point in our society where the successful are automatically demonized as crooked and undeserving.  I don't hold past success against anyone.

Things I learned in last night's debate:
  • Obama is apparently incapable of giving a straight, simple answer to challenging questions.  "Do you consider $4 per gallon gas the new norm?"  We still don't know because he danced around that question.  It's a simple yes or no question - is it or is it not the new norm?  But apparently, according to Obama, $1.80 per gallon was indicative of a failing economy.  If that's the case, what is $4+ per gallon (and in some places here in Southern California, north of $5 per gallon) indicative of?  Don't know, because he wouldn't answer.
  • People or persons who haven't passed a budget during their entire term in office, but added more to the nation's debt than almost all other previous Presidents combined (after criticizing his predecessor for running up deficits) shouldn't rip other people or persons spending plans and tax cuts, especially when those people or persons have also balanced budgets and passed them in the past.  Just sayin'.
  • The Chinese probably aren't thrilled with Romney this morning.  I don't have a problem with that.  He's running for President of the United States, not China or the United Nations.  Putting America first - not kowtowing or making spineless, unnecessary apologies on her behalf - is a quality I like in a candidate for the White House.
  • Another question Obama danced around that was also pretty straight forward was this: who in his administration declined the request for additional security at our embassy in Benghazi, and why?  Very simple - who and why.  Again, he blathered on about finding out who was responsible for the security failings there, but failed to answer the questions that were actually asked.  Because he didn't want to answer it, at least not honestly, because that would have meant taking the heat for it.  And on top of that he actually had the nerve to play the "buck stops here" card when not only was he evading the question, but on the day after his Secretary of State fell on her sword and took the blame for the lack of adequate security at the embassy.  Then he lied about how long it took him to actually label the attack for what it was, an act of terrorism, and not some justifiable protest about some crappy little movie on the internet gone awry.
  • Speaking of that last one, how about that Candy Crowley gaffe?  The much-maligned former NFL replacement refs are probably ordering a gift basket for her since they are no longer the most responsible for interfering with events she and they were supposed to be objective about.  It's not like I expect anyone in the mainstream media to be politically objective these days - they've made it clear it's been awhile since they gave a damn about that - but could they at least try not to be so blatant?  In addition to favoring Obama time-wise, there was also the now infamous faulty fact-check that Crowley busted out to try and save Obama from a damning accusation that's been dogging him since 9/11/12.  From the linked article: 
The most shocking exchange took place on the Benghazi attack that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others dead.

Mr. Romney: “You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying.”

Mr. Obama made no defense. “Please proceed, governor.”

“I want to make sure,” Mr. Romney said. “Get the transcript,” the president said. Then Ms. Crowley jumped in to do her own fact-check, on the spot. “It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. … He did call it an act of terror.”

The truth is, he didn’t. The day after the attack, he said only this: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” It took another two weeks before the White House would label the attack an act of terror.
Obama can't run on his abysmal record, the MSM is flailing (and failing) to make him seem Presidential and worthy of reelection, and he can't man up and answer the tough questions.  Four years of blaming President Bush, partying with celebs, golfing, blowing off security briefings and passing a healthcare plan so awesome that he, his family and the Congress that passed it exempted themselves from it is more than enough.  Time to give someone else a shot at it.  I don't know how good or bad Romney will be as President, but I am pretty sure of one thing - he can't possibly fuck it up as much as his predecessor, and my guess is that whatever happens, one thing he won't do is spend the next four years blaming Obama and/or the mess he "inherited".

Enough is enough.  Yeah, that's what I learned from last night's Presidential debate.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More military humor

Support our troops or get the f-k out is on a roll.  Military humor meets a blonde joke!

Sgt Homer, a handsome dude, walks into the NCO Club and sits down next to this blonde at the bar and stares up at the TV. The 10:00 PM news was on.

The news crew was covering a story of a man on a ledge of a large building preparing to jump.

The blonde looks at Sgt Homer and says, "Do you think he will jump?"

Sgt Homer says,"You know, I bet he'll jump."

The blonde replied. "Well,I bet he won't."

Sgt Homer placed a $20 dollar bill on the bar and said, "You're on!"

Just as the blonde placed her money on the bar, the guy did a swan dive off of the building and fell to his death. The blonde was very upset and handed her $20 dollars to Sgt Homer and said, "All is fair. Here is your money."

Sgt Homer replies. "I can't take your money. I saw this earlier on the five o'clock news and I knew he would jump."

The blonde replies,"I did too, but I didn't think he'd do it again."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

USMC humor

From Support our troops or get the f-k out on FB:

An Iraqi officer is leading his troops through the desert when the come upon a large sand dune.

On the other side, a voice calls out, " 1 US Marine is better than 100 Iraqi soldiers." So he sends over his men and a battle takes place.

Silence, then a voice again says "1 US Marine is better than 500 Iraqi troops." So the officer sends 500 men over the dune. Again, a fierce battle takes place, then silence.

Again, a voice comes over and says " 1 US Marine is better than 1000 Iraqi soldiers." A major battle for over an hour takes place. Then silence.

From atop the dune, an Iraqi soldier crawls up, all bloodied and badly wounded and says "Sir, don't send any more men, it's a trap...there are 2 US Marines."

Friday, October 5, 2012

This post brought to you by the letters, A, C and S

A for Accountability, C and S for Common Sense.

You know, it's never occurred to me to wonder about this, but where does all that money generated by Sesame Street branded products go?  Back into the pockets of the PBS-supporting taxpayers?  I doubt it. 

Now there's an accounting I'd like to see.  No way this show can't be self-supporting with the income it must be generating.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

T-minus 30 days...

National Novel Writing Month starts November 1.

Novelists, get ready to start your engines!